Monday, October 26, 2015
South Sudan’s President Kiir Announces Creation of 18 New States
Office of U.S. Representative Karen Bass
On October 2, 2015 South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir issued a Presidential decree ordering the creation of 18 new states across the nation. In addition to the ten states currently existing, this would bring the total number to 28 states for an estimated population of 8 to 10 million people. The controversial announcement of this decree has the potential to disrupt the implementation of the peace agreement signed by President Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar signed on August 26, 2015; as it was unilaterally declared prior to the formation of the Government of National Unity.
South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 peace deal that ended what was then Africa’s longest civil war. The peace that followed was short lived, as civil war broke out in December 2013 due to political discord between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar. Since that time, thousands of people are reported to have been killed and more than 1.5 million internally displaced.
While some citizens applaud the decree, on the grounds that creating additional states will broaden participation in government and minimize marginalization of minorities in South Sudan. Many in the regional and international community have registered their objections.
The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), which has led peace talks for South Sudan’s warring parties for two years, condemned the President’s order saying it “violated the peace agreement”. The United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the European have also spoken out against President Kiir’s order in a joint statement issued just days after the decree. The statement also calls on President Kiir to refrain from implementing the decree until the warring parties comply with all processes of implementing the peace agreement. Despite international and regional calls for the delay of the order, President Kiir has instructed his administration to continue implementation of his decree.
Early this October, in an attempt to calm international concerns, South Sudan’s Vice President James Wani Igga held several meetings with members of congress, seeking to explain the President’s decision. Meanwhile the South Sudanese opposition group, led by Dr. Riek Machar also conducted several congressional meetings explaining why they believe the decree is harmful to the peace process. Both parties also held a joint meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, which focused on their full compliance in the implementation of the peace agreement.